What will Pagan hospitality look like in the future?
Often times we look towards our past for inspiration. Yet what do we see? Gone are the mead halls and warrior bands of old; in ruin lay the civic temples and sacrificial altars; the bruidean are pages in the historical record. And while some part of my psyche as a Pagan and Witch yearns to relight the fires and resurrect the temples and groves of old, I am a person of the modern era. So I find myself working to honor the traditions of the past with an eye towards the future.
Here I see the Christian dominion ending and the Humanist ethos rising; multiculturalism exploding as the world becomes multiracial and ethnically diverse; climate change lived as a visceral reality with bombogenesis, polar vortexes, and severe drought; national markets battling under the sturm und strang of a world economy and increasingly connected world; social media, the World Wide Web, and technology continuing to expand our ideas of community and connection into the global sphere; big data, big business, and big government invading our lives with little restriction or privacy. In the face of these opportunities and challenges, and others I can’t begin to fathom, I see a ripe opportunity to expand Pagan notions of hospitality. It’s one of our core values that have never dwindled. (Though to my mind, hospitality’s definition within the popular overculture has deteriorated to the point where some people think it only extents to invited guest, friends, and family.)
Many of our traditions have a rich history of valuing hospitality. Gods regularly traveled disguised as strangers in the ancient world. Those who passed the test were rewarded while punishment was levied on those who were derelict in their duties. One of the lessons I take from these stories is this: hospitality is a serious duty required by the Gods in the form of a service to a stranger in need because we are all embodiments of the Divine. This lesson is informed as much by my lived experience as a person of mixed blood as it is by my personal definition of hospitality: recognizing a stranger as one of my own. For me, this means that I acknowledge a stranger as being someone akin to myself in that we share common human traits: the need to be loved and accepted and the need to be fed, warm, and safe. For me, there is a deep recognition of interdependent and cooperative relationship at its heart. My understanding of these types of relationships is that as one gives they also receive. When I choose to acknowledge that I am in interdependent and cooperative relationship with every other person on this planet, I find my own definition of hospitality grows exponentially. The barriers between known and unknown, acquaintance and stranger, family and friend shift. I am better equipped to be in a healthier, balanced relationship with the world and its people.
I want to enrich my Gods, my Ancestors, my Descendants, and our traditions in expanding the acts defined as hospitality. To my mind, we have already expanded the notion of hospitality though I haven’t seen them named as such. I see hospitality in the outpouring of funds to assist Eddy Gutiérrez/Rev. Hyperion’s bereaved partner and family and in the successful medical fundraiser for Aaron Leitch, a scholar and member of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. I see hospitality in the annual PantheaCon Blood Heroes Blood Drive hosted by the Coru Cathubodua Priesthood and Solar Cross Temple, where Pagans of all backgrounds honor their Gods by opening a vein to help nameless and faceless strangers. I see hospitality in Wild Hunt columnist Alley Valkyrie’s tireless work with SLEEPS (Safe, Legally Entitled Emergency Places to Sleep).
Do these examples overlap with other virtues? Virtues like charity, justice, and more. Yes, and I think they are supposed to. Our virtues are just as interconnected as we are. In a world where our interconnectedness is more apparent, the importance of our Pagan virtues is revealed to be the underpinnings of our entire human society. And, I think, our survival as a species.
And yes, I’m challenging my own ideas of place, ownership, guest and host in relation to hospitality. I’m aware of this. I’m exploring a world where hospitality may or may not include these ideas and may or may not give new meaning or nuance to our understanding of these roles and their duties. In a world where I can be halfway around the globe in half a day, spend two hours in a business meeting in a “foreign” place, and then return home on a red eye flight, how does place, host, and guest come into my experience of hospitality? Especially when I’m in a “strange” country and I’m the one “hosting” the business meeting in a “strange” hotel with “strange” people in their homeland, yet they are speaking “my” language.
This is why I think we’d be served by looking at whether we need to adjust specific actions and or ethos to not only stay in alignment with the current era, but plan for our future. And so I wonder. As narrow notions of tribal, national, racial, gendered, and sexual exceptionalism continue to erode, what will the hospitality of the future look like? Does it look like better immigration law? Does it look like nationalized health care? Does it look like international protest against inhospitable ideas and laws? Will it still look like giving an old couch to a family new to the area?
I don’t know. But I daring myself to imagine.